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How to be awesome on Twitter in 5 steps

Lisa Schmeiser | Oct. 9, 2015
Twitter's new features are making the network more welcoming to newbies, but there are some pitfalls to watch out for.

Twitter iOS App
Credit: Martyn Williams

The great thing about Twitter is it’s a way to get a peek into someone else’s stream of consciousness. It’s a way to eavesdrop on someone’s conversations. It’s a way to insert yourself into discussions that interest you.

The drawback is that anyone can do that to you too. And while you’re probably already well-versed in how not to tweet like a sustained public service announcement against social media, there’s another, subtler form of headache you’ll want to avoid: Doing or saying something that prompts unwanted or angry responses from the people you know and like.

There are ways you can reduce the potential for creating or amplifying the kind of Twitter exchange that leaves you in a bad mood, begets drama offline, or gets forwarded around for everyone else’s rubbernecking entertainment.

Tip #1: Remember that social media is a mass medium

In other words, it doesn’t matter how few followers you have; what counts is that you are aware that you’re tweeting to the whole world. Even if you delete your tweet later, there is no guarantee someone hasn’t screen-captured it and turned it into an endlessly recirculating image.

“It’s a little old-fashioned to talk about newspapers’ front pages, but it’s a simple way to remember a rule that still works: Don’t do something you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of your hometown newspaper,” says communications consultant Laura Mecoy.

She points out that social media is now something that potential employers look at, your family monitors, or the authorities appropriate during civil or criminal investigations. So before you tweet, imagine how that little quip will play in a court of law or over the Thanksgiving table.

Tip #2: Respect other people’s privacy

Not everyone is going to have your tolerance for sharing details of their whereabouts, how they look that day, or who they’re out with. Take your cues on what’s acceptable from their own Twitter streams. If these folks don’t share a lot about get-togethers, now is not the time to include them in your tweet about tripping balls at Burning Man.

Ask before posting photos that include other people. This rule goes double for anyone who’s gotten in trouble for posting unflattering photos in the past.

“If you’ve been told in the past that you’ve posted unattractive photos on social media—simply ask first,“ says advice columnist April Masini. ”It’s simple, and it may slow down your posting, but that’s not a bad thing."

Tip #3: Favorite wisely and well

Whether you want to star a tweet because someone said something nice about you, because you like what someone said in general, or because there’s a link you want to follow up on, favorites are basically the bookmark function of your Twitter stream and they should be managed as such.


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